The Rutgers women’s basketball team has 19 total wins on the season. One more would all but assure the Scarlet Knights (19-8, 9-6) a spot in the NCAA Tournament. In order for them to secure it over their next two games against Wisconsin and Iowa, here’s what needs to happen:
Junior guard Arella Guirantes stays hot
In her last game, Guirantes scored 36 points, the most in a single contest for Rutgers since 2006. She shot 15 of 21 from the field while making all 3 of her three-pointers, and also picked up three steals and a block. Throughout her last three games, Guirantes is averaging 26.3 points per game on a 49.6 percent mark from the field.
This is arguably the best she has played this year. Although the Knights have more players that can contribute to the team’s success during the final two games of the regular season, it is not unreasonable to think that Guirantes has the ability to carry Rutgers through the contests against the Badgers (11-17, 3-14) and the No. 18 Hawkeyes (22-5, 13-3).
Iowa is currently sitting in third in the Big Ten standings. The Knights wouldn’t mind having another historic performance from Guirantes against the Hawkeyes, though they would gladly take one similar to what she has given her team throughout the entirety of the season, as she is currently leading Rutgers in blocks and defensive rebounds in addition to her prowess in the offensive categories.
Knights play to home court advantage
At the Rutgers Athletic Center (RAC) this year, Rutgers is 12-2. Though some of their most difficult games have come on the road in the forms of No. 7 Maryland and Northwestern, the Knights have still managed to pick up victories on the Banks against teams like Michigan and Ohio State, both of whom are having decent seasons.
Since the contest against Wisconsin shouldn’t be much of a challenge for Rutgers, the test of the RAC’s advantage for the Knights will come in the form of Iowa. The only other time Rutgers has faced a ranked team at home this season was against Indiana on Dec. 31, when it lost to the then-No. 14 Hoosiers (21-7, 11-5) by a final score of 66-56.
If the Knights play to their strengths on offense and have a strong team-wide performance, though, they should have no trouble securing a victory against the Hawkeyes on their home court come Sunday.
Rutgers’ bench contributes
Over the last couple of games, a few of the Knights outside of the starting lineup have assisted in what success their team had on the court.
Sophomore guard Zipporah Broughton chipped in 4 points and two steals on Saturday against the Buckeyes (17-10, 10-6), while redshirt freshman forward Tyia Singleton tallied a total of 9 points and 12 rebounds in 37 total minutes of playing time against the No. 14 Wildcats (24-13, 14-2) and Wolverines (18-9, 9-7).
If Rutgers hopes to win against Iowa, though, it will need a strong showing from its bench as a whole. A team of that caliber will require the Knights to have contributions all across the board, and as seen in the matchup with Northwestern, a decent performance from a single player outside of the starting lineup is not going to cut it.
While Rutgers should feel good about its NCAA Tournament chances going into its game against the Badgers on Thursday, the level of competition being faced should not be taken for granted. The Knights can win against them but will need to prevent an upset in order to feel even better heading into Sunday’s contest with the Hawkeyes.